Deaths in Teen Driver Crashes Spike After Years on Decline
Gregg Hollander | November 8, 2016 | Car Accidents
The number of people dying due to teen driver negligence is on the rise for the first time in a decade, reports the AAA automobile club and the Governors Highway Safety Association. In fact, this figure has shot up 10 percent in just a year.
This increase follows 10 years in which the number of people killed in teen driver crashes had been slashed by half. In the last five years, AAA reports, teen drivers were involved in some 14,000 fatal crashes. More than 1 in 3 involved speeding. The number killed in those crashes rose from 4,272 in 2014 to 4,689 in 2015. Rewind to 2005, and fatalities in teen car accidents was at 8,241.
It’s not exactly clear what’s behind this increase, though safety advocates blame an increasing number of crashes involving speed and driver distraction (mostly from texting or talking on cell phones).
A number of high profile cases in Florida indicate we aren’t likely to see any kind of a severe drop-off in these figures in 2016, unfortunately.
One of those involved a just-turned-18-year-old who, according to police and The Sun Sentinel, “celebrated” by stealing a BMW from a home rented on Airbnb and taking a joyride with a young friend. His passenger later told police he was smoking marijuana and texting when he lost control of the vehicle, careened over the median and slammed into a sport utility vehicle, killing its 39-year-old driver.
The teen reportedly did not have a driver’s license and therefore was not insured. Because the owner of the vehicle did not give permission for him to drive it, it’s unlikely she could be held vicariously liable either. In a situation like that, our car accident attorneys would usually look to the uninsured motorist policy of the decedent for recovery of damages for his family.
We know that while some teens do exercise responsible driving habits, their inexperience alone makes them vulnerable. That combined with their inherent belief of their own invincibility is often a recipe for disaster.
Some high schools are seeking to drive home the message of texting-and-driving dangers with tactics some consider bold and others controversial. The Miami-Herald reported about one school in which an announcement came on over the loudspeaker, revealing that four of their classmates had died in a texting-and-driving car accident. Students began weeping in their classes. They began firing off texts to their friends: “Is it true?”
Ten minutes later, there was another announcement. The students learned their classmates had not actually died. Those four had willingly participated and been told not to answer their phones for their classmates. Some parents and students expressed anger about the incident, saying it “crossed the line.” However, it was defended by a member of student council who said, “If we did anything like this in another way, no one would listen or pay any attention.”
Teenagers are 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than adults.
The two most recent reports indicate that while all 50 states have in place graduated driver’s license programs that have been shown to reduce teen driving accidents by a third. However, what we’re now learning is that many novice drivers (including the one in the recent Coral Springs case) aren’t trying to get their driver’s license until they are 18 – or older. By then, the graduated driver’s license program is no longer a requirement, even though there is evidence 18- and 19-year-old drivers are still an elevated risk on the road.
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Fatalities in teen crashes spike after steady decline, studies find, Oct. 12, 2016, By Bart Jansen, USA Today